Five HDTVs worth waiting for

If you're about to splash out on a new flat-screen TV, just hang in there that little bit longer. Some exciting new models are going to be hitting the shops in the coming months

Yes, TV prices are falling. But this year will also see technologies such as 100Hz processing (doubling the typical 50Hz PAL refresh rate to reduce motion judder), and 1080p/24 (true 24fps playback like you get at the cinema) being more widely adopted.

There’s also the prospect of faster response times. Last year’s popular Sony Bravia KDL-46X2000, for example, had an 8ms response time. Philps is promising a 2ms respone time in its new 9000 series TVs.

In many ways, there’s never been a good time to buy an HDTV – something better always comes along in six months time. But TV tech is maturing fast and here are five LCD/plasma TVs that we think are worth waiting for.

Toshiba ZF Series LCD TVs

The new ZF Series is a fusion of Toshiba’s Z Series LCD HDTVs (like the 47-inch 47Z3030), and its ‘Picture Frame’ concept. Toshiba’s Picture Frame was first used in its CRT sets a few years ago, resulting in a much thinner bezel surrounding the screen. Last year, Picture Frame was applied to the XF Series of TVs, so this version represents the best of both worlds.

There’s a impressive spec list too, from 100Hz picture processing, a home cinema-orientated 1080p/24-frame-per-second mode, a claimed 30,000:1 contrast ratio, three HDMI ports and high-performance speakers by Onkyo. At 23mm, the bezel is roughly half the width found on many LCDs. The ZF series is due in April and will be available in 40-, 46- and 52-inch sizes.

Samsung 750 Series LCD and plasma TVs

Amongst Samsung’s vast array of new sets for 2008 is a series of TVs with a special treatment added to the dark bezel around the screen. Samsung calls it a 'Touch of Colour'. What this actually means is that the 750 Series TVs have a subtle opaque quality to them, a hint of colour that the manufacturer has dubbed 'Rose Black'.

Design gimmicks like this are all the rage, but the 750 LCD and 750 PDP sets will also pack an enviable package of HD goodness. On top of a 100Hz/full 1080p spec (for the 40-52 inch LCD versions), there are four bang up-to-date v1.3 HMDI sockets along with a side-mounted USB port, perfect for viewing digital photos or playing music files. There’s even 1GB of built-in flash memory for storing multimedia content and the LCD TVs will use Samsung’s Anynet home networking system. 50-63 inch 720p plasma options are also expected.

Philips Design Collection 9000 Series LCD TVs

The Design Collection is the grand sounding umbrella title for a host of new Philips products, including Blu-ray players, home cinema kit and, of course, flat-screen TVs. The new 9000 Series of HDTVs incorporates the company’s second-generation Pixel Perfect HD Engine. This features various picture processing technologies, from 100Hz to motion, colour, contrast and sharpness enhancements.

The 9000 Series LCDs also promise to boost picture clarity by cutting the panel’s response time to a mere 2ms. Like Philips’ love it or hate it Aurea set, the 9000 Series TVs also display the full HD resolution of 1080p.

Finally, Philips has tweaked its mood-enhancing Ambilight system, which emits soft, coloured light from behind the screen. The latest Spectra incarnation of Ambilight forgoes the Aurea’s distracting lightframe, but creates a ‘360 degree’ effect to produce pools of light in your room.

Pioneer G9 plasma TVs

In March the acclaimed Japanese plasma specialist Pioneer announced a restructuring of the company. It spells the end of in-house plasma production, as Pioneer fights competition from its more mass-produced rivals. Thankfully, it does’t mean the end of its ‘Kuro’ high-contrast TVs.

Looking ahead to 2009, the company is expected to source panels externally. It’s not such a big deal – the interesting bit of the tech that goes into TVs these days is usually concerned with how you ‘address’ the panel. So Pioneer will basically apply its proprietary technologies (creating deeper black levels, bright highlights and that special Pioneer ‘look’) to somebody else’s panels.

In the mean time, Pioneer’s ninth-generation plasmas are due later in 2008, probably the last to be made fully in-house. Pioneer’s Kuro theme will also be spreading to smaller LCDs developed through a joint venture with Sharp. Details of sizes, spec and prices will be announced in late May.

Panasonic’s ‘super-thin’ plasma TV

If this year’s CES told us anything, it was that 2008 will be the year that flat TVs get even thinner. Panasonic, for example, has shaved a few more millimetres off of its upcoming plasma TV. The new prototype measures 50 inches across, but is only 24.7mm deep – that’s less than an inch thick.

The loss of bulk is also reflected in its relatively light 22kg weight. That’s about half the typical weight of Panasonic’s previous 50-inch screens, making it easier and safer to transport and to wall mount.

One of its most exciting developments, though, is invisible. The TV includes Panasonic’s new wireless technology based on the Wireless HD standard. So in the future you’ll be able to link to a compatible set-top box or disc player without cabling – except for the mains lead, naturally.